2016 was the year when I traveled more than ever, and continuing my wanderlust is one of the resolutions I have for the new year. Traveling as a wheelchair user means that there is more planning involved, especially when it comes to finding accessible places to stay. Hotel companies are suppose to have available accessible rooms and proper accommodations within them, but many fall short to truly being accessible to those of us on four wheels. I wanted to share my most recent incident, as it was a very poignant case of inaccessibility to date that I have endured.
This year has been one where the Ramp Your Voice!’s blog broke its pageviews record by having 76,809 views, which is over double that seen last year (which was almost 30,000). In keeping with record-shattering trends, the blog had 1,148 views in one day on February 4th, which beat last year’s record of 470. This was also the year where the blog has become the space where I have expressed my unapologetic disabled Blackness. I am so proud that I wrote many articles that targeted the Black disabled experience, and the effects and presence of white privilege and racism in our community, 2016 was when I felt comfortable in writing about what mattered to me without fearing being pigeon-holed by those within and outside of our community.
As I did last year, I want to highlight the articles that received the most views and shares in 2016. These works are some of my best features; a lot of my advocacy passions were evident in 2016. It is a humbling moment when readers respect your voice, understand the emotions that are present, and support what you do fervently.
I wanted to take the time to wish all of my readers, followers, and supporters a very Happy Holiday season. Tis the season for family and friends gatherings, hot cocoa, eggnog, presents, and watching childhood favorites Christmas movies.
Image of a group of protestors outside of a school building holding signs to show solidarity to the injustice committed to a disabled student.
The intersection of race and disability is often ignored when we discuss the injustices that disadvantage disabled students of color within our schools. This oversight can mean grave consequences to students who live within these margins. The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately impacts disabled students of color (especially Black disabled students), yet very few are addressing what occurs in our schools; a recent incident in Pittsburgh caught my attention as being yet another example of how we are failing to advocate for and protect Black disabled students.
On Twitter, disability rights advocate Dustin Gibson shared details about a Black disabled student at Woodland Hills High being victimized and dehumanized by his principal. Dustin is a revolutionary in training in Pittsburgh that has centered his identity as a Black man with bipolar disorder in his work. He builds with people impacted by systems both locally and nationally. Organizing with the perspective that the people closest to the impact are closest to the solution, many of his efforts are grassroot.
I asked Dustin if he would tell the story of the Woodland Hills incident, the connections between racism and ableism, and why Black disabled lives matter. Here are his words:
It has been a month since the Presidential election, and the dust still has not settled from the shock of Donald Trump winning the coveted seat or the demand for recounts of votes.
It took me some time to find the words to articulate the reality that I will live in a Trump-led America come January. This is the America that has no regard for human dignity, empathy, or compassion. This is the America that we have tried so hard to deny that existed by erroneously stating that we lived in a post-racial society after electing our first Black president. This is the America that those who are multi-marginalized like myself live in every day, and such realities will only get harsher as officials are appointed who actively support every type of bigotry and offense there is.
This month has been an emotional rollercoaster for many, especially with the results of the Presidential election that has caused a real sense of fear and uncertainty to surface, particularly for those who are marginalized in our community. I know personally that I have been doing a lot of self-care these past couple of weeks, and have been very mindful of my emotional, mental, and physical health.
I decided to take a more light-hearted and reflective tone this week by listing what I am thankful for that has transpired this year. This year has been strangely wonderful in the midst of juggling grief and major life transitions. 2016 will go down as probably the best “adulting” year of my life; a time where everything looked as if they would fall apart, yet somehow pieced together perfectly.
On November 5th, I conducted my first presentation about the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag and ways White disabled advocates can step up and address the over-whiteness matter within the community at the Disability and Intersectionality Summit in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first non-social work/helping professional presentation I gave, as well as the first summit I attended that focused exclusively on the disabled experience. In Boston, I had the incredible opportunity to meet fellow disabled advocates and friends that I absolutely respect and appreciate. It was my first time in Boston (and the northernmost I have travelled), and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Luke Cage was one of Netflix’s original series I had waited all summer to watch. Being a blerd and someone who enjoys comics, I was proudly a part of the #Cagetember fandom seen on Twitter. What excited me was not just Luke’s amazing abilities, but the fact that he was a Black disabled character, an existence that does not receive enough attention or respect within comic spaces. Luke represents so much to disabled blerds like myself, and I felt that it would only be justly to share why Luke’s existence matters, and the need for more Black disabled characters.
Me in front of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture sign, with the building in the background.
It is no secret how big of a disabled blerd (black nerd) I am, and my love for anything related to Black culture and history. During my hiatus from the blog, I took a much-needed trip to Maryland, and over that week and a half, visited the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened late September. I went to the Museum with two of my awesome Black disabled advocates, and the three of us set out to explore the Museum that was for us, and has been the major talk within our community.
On Thursday, October 13th, I will be hosting my first Twitter chat as a #MacroSW partner. I was invited to be a partner for MacroSW (Macro Social Work) over the summer. Macro social work focuses on “big systems” – advocacy, community building, politics, policy, etc., and how those systems affect how we engage with our communities and how we interact with those systems. Though I love micro social work, which is direct practice (working with individuals, families, and groups), it is macro social work where I shine and thrive. Since I am not in a traditional social work role within my advocacy work and now with my new position at WID (World Institute on Disability), it is nice to be among like-minded social workers who love to look at the big picture of the world, and work on solutions to fix the problems that exists.
Important Disability-Related Videos You Should Watch
Here's the Out of Step's TOOST Radio interview I participated in as a panelist on Nov. 6th, 2013. During the interview, I discussed my personal & professional viewpoints about the choice of discussing disability status while seeking employment opportunities. The part that I'm featured begins 15:29 minutes into the interview.
In this video, Beyoncé helps Kid President with World Humanitarian Day 2013. The Kid President has OI like I do. I think that his messages are ones that all walks of life & ages can learn from. I'm so jealous that he met one of my idols & favorite music performers, Beyoncé! I wanted to share with you all the interview the Kid President did with Beyoncé for World Humanitarian Day, which was August 19th, 2013.